Check List

25 07 2009

A quick word before I share some of the wonderful things I’ve done and seen in the past week.  It is with great sadness that I share the news I just received – the passing of my beloved grandfather, Cecil Smith III, who for years wrote for the LA Times and instilled in me a love for writing.  It is in memory of him and his love of all things global and adventurous that I write this brief update.

– Arrive in Amman: check.

– Rent a car, purchase a “map”, and drive the winding and Arabic-signed streets of Jordan cities and villages: check.

– Wander along the Jordan River and visit the site where Jesus was baptized: check.

– Take in the expanse of the Promised Land, from where Moses did atop Mount Nebo: check.

– Get lost in random Jordanian village, only to be led by an overly friendly village man to a delicious Turkish meal and tea in the back of his hardware store.  Throw roadtrip schedule out the window: check.

– drive through the WILDERNESS: check.

– wander the majestic rock carvings and canyons of Petra, by candlelight: check.

– make friens with other tourists: check.

– drive through the WILDERNESS: check.

– watch the sunset over the red sands and mountains of Wadi Rum.  Camp under the stars in the Jordanian Desert: check.

– drive through the WILDERNESS: check.

– eye the Red Sea as we drive through Aqaba: check.

– float in the salty waters of the Dead Sea.  Rub mineral-laden mud all over me.  watch the sun set over Palestine: check.

– wander the souqs of ancient Damascus, stroll Straight Street, visit the house of Ananias where Paul was healed of his blindness and the part of the wall where he was lowered down in a basket to escape the Jewish leaders who were after him: check.

– enjoy the Middle East: check.


Last Day in Beirut

19 07 2009

Today was my last day in Beirut.  I had a great final week in Bourj Hammoud with the girls – they enjoyed the National Museum, the ruins downtown, and then we spent Thursday afternoon in the air-conditioned mall and movie theater.  I already miss them.

My time here seems like a bit of a blur.  I know I will be processing it for weeks to come.  For now, I am off to Jordan and then Syria for a final week of travel.  Even though I am ready to be home, I am excited to see these countries: Amman, Bethany, Mt. Nebo, Herod’s Castle, the Dead Sea, Petra, the Wadi Rum desert, and Damascus.  Pray for safety and that it will be a good time of rest and reacharging before I enter back into American culture.

I’m not sure if I’ll get to update much in the next week.  But I hope to update most of you in person when I get home, very soon – July 28th!

Scavenger Hunt, Bourj Hammoud Style.

13 07 2009

I’m in my final week here in Beirut.  In about six days I’ll be heading out to travel for a week before returning home.  Still not sure where exactly I’ll go.  Everyone on the team’s got different amounts of time and different desires.  But, It’ll probably involve Syria, possibly Jordan, Cyprus, or Turkey.  We’ll see.

I’m spending time Scavenger Huntthis week with some high school girls in Bourj Hammoud, an Armenian area of Beirut.  Last week I took them on a scavenger hunt, which they had never done before.  They had a blast racing through the tiny allies of the neighborhood looking for pennies and girls’ underwear.  Ha!  But a scavenger hunt in Bourj Hammoud is different than any I have ever done in the States.  They’re not quite so quick – more conversing with people along the way.  I threw time out the window and just enjoyed the experience.  The next day, I took them on a different kind of scavenger hunt.  I asked them to find: 1) a place of pain, 2) a place of joy and 3) a place where God is.  One girl’s “place of pain” was the Old People’s Home, which she had never been to, so we went in and got a tour.  It was eye opening and difficult even for me, to see the conditions of how the elderly are cared for in this country.  Today we had a Bible study – the first the girls had ever really done – and looked at God’s scavenger hunt…what does God see when he looks at the city?  It was a challenge to do in English (not their first language), with only one Bible, but we made it work.  🙂  Then I took them to an art exhibit of pieces made during the civil war period.  None of them were alive during that time, nor had any of them ever seen an art exhibit before, so it was eye opening for all of us.  I had fun giving them my (very) amateur advice about how to view art.  Tomorrow, we’re off to the national museum to see really old things.  🙂  Wednesday we’ll see the ruins downtown and Thursday will be shopping and a movie, since it will be our last day together.  In all of this I am informally teaching them English and they are teaching me Armenian, though I think they are better learners than I am.

Last weekend I went to Baalbek, some of the most extensive and best preserved ancient ruins in the world.  They were pretty amazing.

Please pray for:

– The remainder of my time here, that I would press in and that God would use my time with the girls as an opportunity for him to move in their lives.

– For team dynamics (unity, grace and intentionality).

– My homesickness.  Though things are going well here, I really miss home.  I am anxious about my upcoming move when I return home.  Can you pray that God will speak to me about this?

Thank you for your continued prayers!  I can’t wait to see you and speak to you all in person!

My Weekend

6 07 2009


– Met with a Shiite Sheik for dialogue about his life and religion.

– Met with a Muslim follower of Christ about his experiences.


– Climbed a Crusader castle in Sidon.

– Learned how old school soap was made at the Soap Museum.

– Wandered the alleys of the ancient souq (market).

– Drank a LOT of water.

– Drove to Tyre and checked into our little hotel on the Mediterranean Coast (ie, sea right outside my window).

– Lounged on the rocky shore and watched the sun set over the sea.

– Counted UN vehicles scattered throughout the city.  Lost count.

– Dined at a Lebanese restaurant.  We arrived at 10pm.  The place was empty.  Party (and live Arabic music) started at 11.  The people, arak, and hookah started flowing by 12.  We left at about 12:30 and were apparently the only ones with such a silly idea.  Arrived back at our hotel by 1am to a loud and vibrant crowd at the beach hut below.  The reggae (which apparently goes with “beach” in every language) boomed loudly until at least 3am.  These people know how to party.


– Usual breakfast of labneh (really thick yogurt), pita, and fresh apricot jam.  Read how Jesus healed a persistent woman’s daughter in this same city (See Mark 7:24-30).

– Wandered the ancient port – the same one the Apostle Paul arrived to when he spent a week in Tyre (Acts 21:1-6).

– Strolled through ancient Roman ruins and skipped across the largest Roman hippodrome in the world.

– Entered the border region between Lebanon and Israel/Palestine.  Drove along the border, on what could barely be described as a road, through villages destroyed by the recent war.  Some being rebuilt.

– Met a Christian UN peacekeeper from Indonesia.  Looked inside a $6 million UN tanker.  Wore a UN peacekeeper’s helmet (it’s heavy).  Looked out across northern Israel/Palestine (the Valley of Kiryat Shmona).

– Climbed through the rubble of the notorious prison of Khiam, where Lebanese prisoners/civilians were tortured by Israeli soldiers.  Now a museum run by Hezbollah.  The Israeli Air Force destroyed it in the 2006 conflict.  We all pretty much wanted to throw up after seeing the consequences of hate, violence, conflict and revenge.  As I walked all I could say was “Lord, have mercy.”

Prayer Requests:

-After so many hours in the van on really rough roads, I woke up today with really bad vertigo and had to stay home.  Keep praying for my health.  Though I am seeing answers from my last health request.  thank you!

– Starting a new practicum placement this week.  Pray for God to guide me specifically for how I should spend my time at the Karaghuesian Center.  Will likely be spending time with teenage girls who have dropped out of school.  Pray for God to use me to influence their lives.

– Only two weeks to go – keep praying that God will draw near with his presence, and that I will keep learning for his kingdom!  I have been really encouraged and spurred on by each note, comment, email and prayer.  Seriously, thank you so very much!  I’m praying for you too!

ps: i’m having trouble now uploading pics to my blog for some reason.  not sure when i’ll have time to figure out how to fix it.  so sorry!  hopefully you can see my uploads on facebook!

Overdue Update

3 07 2009

Hi!  I’m so sorry I haven’t been able to blog or share pictures as much I’d hoped – we got moved from the rooms with internet and so updates are much harder to manage.  Since a lot has happened since I last posted, I’ll share the highlights.

– I’ve spent two weeks in Bourj Hammoud now, working with the coordinator between the Armenian school system and World Vision.  It is a dense neighborhood, with tiny alleys for streets, and much poverty.  My placement has been a bit challenging, as it has lacked clear direction and I’ve had to really take initiative to understand how everything works, but I’ve been grateful to see how some development programs are working.  I’ll spend the next two weeks at Howard Karagheusian Center, a social service organization that provides education and health services.  I think I’ll be spending time with some teenage girls who have dropped out of high school but are receiving skills training at the center.  I met them last week when they were on retreat at Bylos and we bonded really quickly.  I’m excited to be in their lives for a brief period.

– This city is the most chaotic place I’ve ever been.  I spend about 3 – 3 1/2 hours every day in the car, which is quite draining, especially considering it’s about 92 degrees with 50% humidity, and often the cars don’t have air conditioning.  There are traffice lanes, but no one drives in them, and I am now learning the various ways one can communicate using their horn.  There is a honk to let someone know you are passing them, one to let them know they can merge, one to tell them not to merge, there is a Christian honk (yes, seriously) and a Muslim honk, and honks for various political parties, one to tell someone to hurry up, and one to let everyone know you are angry.  On a positive note, I am the last person to get dropped off in the mornings, which means I get to spend 2 hours seeing many parts of the city as people shuffle to work.  I’ve been praying for the places we drive through, and learning a lot from our kind and knowledgeable driver.

– On the weekends we are taking opportunities to travel.  Last weekend we went north to Tripoli and the mountains.  We saw the Cedars (referenced often in the Bible) and the beautiful Maronite village of Bcharre.  We then covered our heads and wandered the ancient souq of (the predominantly Muslim) Tripoli, picking up some hand made natural soaps and ate the BEST baklava I’ve every tasted in my LIFE.  This weekend we’re heading south to Tyre and Sidon (maybe you’ve heard of them?), and, hopefully the heavily guarded border region between Lebanon and Israel.  Please pray for our safety, though we are in good hands with a local friend who is taking us.

Overall, I’m really enjoying the hospitality of so many here, and am learning, learning, learning.  The days have been draining – we leave at 7:30 every morning and don’t return often until 9:30 or 10:00 pm every night.  But, I’m finally starting to feel more settled and find my rhythm.  Things take a little less energy now, which is good.  And, I have, after two full weeks of study, finally learned the Arabic alphabet!  I’m also trying to pick up a few Armenian sayings.

Please pray for me in the evenings/nights (my morning times) for digestive health (ha – yeah, I just blogged that).  Actually, the whole team has been having a lot of trouble for over a week straight now, and the mornings are the hardest for me.  It’s getting a bit wearing for us.  Many have been down for the count in the last few days.  Also, please pray for good recharging time and that I will find/create more alone time with God.  Seriously, things have just been nonstop, and I am really craving some spiritual refreshment.  Also, I’m really struggling with feeling inadequate – please pray that God will speak to me about this.

I miss home!  (And that means, I miss YOU!).  Actually, we’re about half-way through now…so I will see you soon!  I am praying for many of you, as God brings you to mind.  Hope to write more soon!